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“With the first word I used intelligently, I learned to live, to think, to hope. Darkness cannot shut me in again. I have had a glimpse of the shore, and can now live by the hope of reaching it.”
Helen Keller lived a remarkable life, full of hope. We know that Helen was blind and deaf because of a childhood illness. We also know that her first years were very difficult for her and for family.
In her essay “Optimism,” Keller describes those early years like this, “Once I knew the depth where no hope was, and darkness lay on the face of all things. Then love came and set my soul free. Once I knew only darkness and stillness. Now I know hope and joy. Once I fretted and beat myself against the wall that shut me in. Now I rejoice in the consciousness that I can think, act and attain heaven. My life was without past or future; death, the pessimist would say, ‘a consummation devoutly to be wished.’ But a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living. Night fled before the day of thought, and love and joy and hope came up in a passion of obedience to knowledge.”
My oldest son is reading The Miracle Worker in his Lit class. Do you remember what it was like when Annie Sullivan first showed up at their home? Helen was this wild child who would throw herself into massive tantrums. She hid poor Annie’s bedroom key. She threw food at the dinner table. Her parents were just on the brink of giving up. But slowly and methodically, Annie Sullivan worked with five year old Helen. It all seemed pointless, when one day they are at the water pump and it all clicks for Helen. Miss Sullivan spells w-a-t-e-r into her hand, while the water spills through her fingers. She suddenly understands that these letters connect to make words. These words connect to things. These things are apart of her everyday life. A door to hope opens!
Helen starts to live again. However, her life does not start afresh. She still has all the struggle of living in a world full of sights and sounds that she will never see or hear. So what does she do?
She finds HER way. She learns to experience the world through her remaining senses. She starts to teach Annie Sullivan how to show her new things. Together, they push through hardship and seeming impossibility with creative solutions.
Helen then goes on to become the first blind person to graduate from college! Think about that. That means the first blind person to ever graduate from college was also DEAF! Is that not the most incredible thing ever?
Please let that hope filled fact put some wind in your sails today. In the moment where you want to give in or believe you are not enough, please remember what Helen Keller was able to do. And, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)